Ludlul bēl nēmeqi

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Copy of Ludlul bēl nēmeqi, from Nineveh, 7th Century BC. Louvre Museum (deposit from British Museum).

Ludlul bēl nēmeqi ("I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom"), also sometimes known in English as The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer, is a Mesopotamian poem (ANET, pp. 434–437) written in Akkadian that concerns itself with the problem of the unjust suffering of an afflicted man, named Šubši-mašrâ-Šakkan (Shubshi-meshre-Shakkan). The author is tormented, but he does not know why. He has been faithful in all of his duties to the gods. He speculates that perhaps what is good to man is evil to the gods and vice versa. He is ultimately delivered from his sufferings.[1]: 440  It is thought to have been composed during the reign of Kassite king of Babylon Nazi-Maruttaš (c. 1307–1282 BC), who is mentioned on line 105 of tablet IV.

The poem was written on four tablets in its canonical form and consisted of 480 lines. Alternate names for the poem include the Poem of the Righteous Sufferer or the Babylonian Job.[2] According to William Moran, the work is a hymn of thanksgiving to Marduk for recovery from illness.[3]

The first (but now outdated) edition of the poem was published by W. G. Lambert in 1960 (reprinted in 1996).[4] Amar Annus and Alan Lenzi have edited in 2010 a new edition of the poem for the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project. This volume was published as State Archive of Assyria Cuneiform Text 7 (SAACT 7).[5] The new edition includes tablets published by Wiseman,[6] George and Al-Rawi,[7] Horowitz and Lambert,[8] and several other unpublished tablets from the British Museum.


Šubši-mašrâ-Šakkan (sometimes given as Šubši-mešrê-šakkan), inscribed mšub-ši-maš-ra-a-dGÌR, was the narrator of Ludlul bēl nēmeqi. According to the text, he occupied high office, had slaves and fields, a family and spoke of the city as if it were subject to his rule. An official of the same name appears in two other documents dated to his reign.

The sources[edit]

A tablet recovered in Nippur lists grain rations given to the messenger of a certain Šubši-mašrâ-Šakkan during Nazi-Marrutaš' fourth year (1304 BC).[9] There is a court order found in Ur, dated to the sixteenth year of Nazi-Maruttaš (1292 BC), in which Šubši-mašrâ-šakkan is given the title šakin māti, GAR KUR, "governor of the country." It is an injunction forbidding harvesting reeds from a certain river or canal.[10]

The poetic work, Ludlul bēl nēmeqi, describes how the fortunes of Šubši-mašrâ-Šakkan, a rich man of high rank, turned one day. When beset by ominous signs, he incurred the wrath of the king, and seven courtiers plotted every kind of mischief against him. This resulted in him losing his property, "they have divided all my possessions among foreign riffraff," friends, "my city frowns on me as an enemy; indeed my land is savage and hostile," physical strength, "my flesh is flaccid, and my blood has ebbed away," and health, as he relates that he "wallowed in my excrement like a sheep."[11] While slipping into and out of consciousness on his death bed, his family already conducting his funeral, Urnindinlugga, a kalû, or incantation priest, was sent by Marduk to presage his salvation. The work concludes with a prayer to Marduk.[12] The text is written in the first person, leading some to speculate that the author was Šubši-mašrâ-Šakkan himself. Perhaps the only certainty is that the subject of the work, Šubši-mašrâ-Šakkan, was a significant historical person during the reign of Nazi-Maruttaš when the work was set. Of the fifty-eight extant fragmentary copies of Ludlul bēl nēmeqi the great majority date to the neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian periods.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McKenzie, John L. (1965). Dictionary of the Bible. Simon & Schuster.
  2. ^ Gilbert, "Wisdom Literature", Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period (Uitgeverij: Van Gorcum, 1984), p. 284.
  3. ^ William L. Moran, "Notes on the Hymn to Marduk in Ludlul Bel Nemeqi," in Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 103, No. 1, Studies in Literature from the Ancient Near East, by Members of the American Oriental Society, Dedicated to Samuel Noah Kramer (Jan.–Mar., 1983), pp. 255-260.
  4. ^ W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1996), pp. 21-62 and 282-302.
  5. ^ Ludlul bēl Nēmeqi. The Standard Babylonian Poem of the Righteous Sufferer
  6. ^ D. J. Wiseman, "A New Text of the Babylonian Poem of the Righteous Sufferer" in Anatolian Studies, Vol. 30 (1980), pp. 101-107.
  7. ^ A. R. George and F. N. H. Al-Rawi, "Tablets from the Sippar Library. VII. Three Wisdom Texts" in Iraq, Vol. 60 (1990), pp. 187-206.
  8. ^ W. Horowitz and W. G. Lambert, "A New Exemplar of Ludlul Bēl Nēmeqi Tablet I from Birmingham," in Iraq, Vol. 64 (2002), pp. 237-245.
  9. ^ Alan Lenzi, Amar Annus (2011). "A Six-Column Babylonian Tablet of Ludlul Bēl Nēmeqi and the Reconstruction of Tablet IV". JNES. 70 (2): 190–191. originally published as PBS II/2 20 31.
  10. ^ O. R. Gurney (1983). The Middle Babylonian Legal and Economic Texts from Ur. – British School of Archeology in Iraq. pp. 187–188. No. 76 U. 30506.
  11. ^ Robert D. Biggs (1975). "Ludlul bēl nēmeqi, "I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom"". In James B. Pritchard (ed.). The Ancient Near East, Volume II. Princeton University Press. pp. 148–154.
  12. ^ Takayoshi Oshima (2007). "The Babylonian God Marduk". In Gwendolyn Leick (ed.). The Babylonian World. Routledge. pp. 352–355.
  13. ^ W. G. Lambert (1996). Babylonian Wisdom Literature. Eisenbrauns. p. 26.

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